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Resource Development in Canada

    October 15, 2014
    The Peace River in northern British Columbia

    The federal government has approved the construction of a massive hydroelectric dam  in northern British Columbia despite the severe impacts it would have on the cultures and economies of Indigenous peoples in the region.

    The Site C dam would flood more than 80 km of the Peace River Valley. A joint federal/provincial environmental assessment found the dam would cause “profound” loss of natural habitat, would “severely undermine” First Nations, Métis and non-Aboriginal use of the area, and would submerge First Nations graves and others sites of cultural significance.

    In a decision released on October 14th, federal Environment Minister Leona Aglukkaq said that the impacts of the project are “justified in the circumstances.” The Minister’s statement refers to jobs that will be created in the construction of the dam and the “clean, renewable energy” that will be produced.

    However, the joint review characterized the dam as imposing significant social and environmental costs that would be borne by the very communities least likely to share in its benefits.

    October 08, 2014

    “Our people have a deep connection with this land because our ancestors told the stories and legends that are connected to that valley.” Chief Liz Logan, Treaty 8 Tribal Association, testifying before the environmental impact assessment of the proposed Site C hydroelectric dam.

    It would be impossible to flood more than 80 km of pristine river valley without having a massive impact on local ecosystems and the people who depend on them.

    The environmental impact assessment of the proposed $8 billion Site C hydroelectric dam in Northern British Columbia is clear that flooding such a large section of the Peace River valley would “severely undermine” First Nations, Métis and non-Aboriginal use of the area for hunting, trapping, and gathering plant medicines; would make fishing unsafe for at least a generation; and would submerge burial grounds and other crucial cultural and historical sites.

    In short, the panel concluded that the project would have “significant environmental and social costs” and that these would be borne by the people least likely to benefit from the project.

    September 12, 2014

    September 13th marks the 7th anniversary of the adoption of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, a consensus global human rights instrument. The Declaration calls on all states to safeguard the traditional land and resource rights of Indigenous peoples, including legal title to lands. The Declaration also requires fair and transparent mechanisms to ensure any disputes over lands and resources are resolved in a just and timely manner.

    The rights recognition and protection called for by the Declaration is increasingly reflected in decisions by Canadian courts.

    For example, in a unanimous decision, Tsilhqot’in Nation v. British Columbia, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled in June that the Tsilhqot’in people in central BC continue to hold title to 1700 km2 of their traditional territory. Accordingly, they have the right to control how the land is used and to benefit from its resources.

    September 10, 2014

    Open Letter to the Premier of British Columbia

    Dear Premier Christy Clark,

    In Tsilhqot’in Nation v. British Columbia, the Supreme Court recognized the Tsilhqot’in Nation’s ownership of title land in its traditional territory. This decision provides a crucial opportunity to re-frame the relationship between First Nations and the province of British Columbia.

    The Tsilhqot’in situation is not unique. The legal principles informing the Court’s unanimous ruling in the Tsilhqot’in case are widely applicable and should be adopted as part of a just and principled framework for the long overdue recognition of Indigenous land rights in BC.

    Toward this end, our organizations would like to draw your attention to these conclusions of the Supreme Court:

    June 17, 2014

    The federal government’s decision to conditionally approve construction of the Northern Gateway Pipeline without the consent of affected First Nations violates crucial human rights protections under both Canadian and international law.

    Northern Gateway is intended to transport a daily average of 525,000 barrels of oil sands bitumen and industrial chemicals between Alberta and the British Columbia coast. The majority of First Nations whose traditional lands would be crossed by the proposed project have publicly opposed the pipeline, as have First Nations who depend on the downstream rivers and coastal waters that could be affected by construction or a future spill.

    In statement released today, 23 First Nations thatwould be affected by the project, and 8 First Nations organizations from the region, denounced the federal government's decision as a violation of their rights and laws.

    May 12, 2014

    by Craig Benjamin,
    Indigenous Rights Campaigner, Amnesty International Canada

    A leading United Nations human rights expert says the situation of First Nations, Inuit and Métis in Canada has reached "crisis proportions in many respects."

    In a just released report, James Anaya, the UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, highlights a wide range of concerns documented during his 2013 research mission to Canada.

    April 10, 2014

    Downplaying the human rights of Indigenous peoples will only exacerbate conflict over pipeline development in British Columbia.

    In a joint submission tabled with the Prime Minister’s office last month, 11 human rights and Indigenous peoples’ organizations, including the BC Assembly of First Nations, First Nations Summit, and Union of BC Indian Chiefs, caution that development of energy infrastructure such as pipelines can have far-reaching effects on Indigenous rights protected under the Canadian Constitution and international law.

    The joint submission responds to two reports currently being reviewed by the federal cabinet: the report of the Prime Minister’s special representative on West Coast energy infrastructure, Douglas Eyford and the report of the environmental assessment panel for the proposed Northern Gateway pipeline.

    While these two reports acknowledge that Indigenous peoples’ rights are at stake in decisions about whether or not to approve pipelines and other projects, neither adequately addresses the legal framework for safeguarding these rights and neither accommodates a human rights-based approach.

    April 07, 2014

    Ontario Minister of Natural Resources David Orazietti has announced that – for at least one year - the province will not license new logging on the traditional territory of the Grassy Narrows First Nation in northwestern Ontario.

    The Minister's statement follows the latest announcement by a major company that it wants nothing to do with wood logged without the consent of the people of Grassy Narrows. EACOM, which owns sawmills throughout the region, announced in March that it would not process wood from Grassy Narrows.

    The people of Grassy Narrows have long called for a moratorium on industrial development on their territory, to protect the land for traditional uses and to allow the community the opportunity to make its own decisions about how the land should be used.

    There has been no clear cut logging at Grassy Narrows since 2008, as the result of previous decisions by major corporations not to log or handle wood from Grassy Narrows.

    February 27, 2014

    In a decision released on February 26, federal Environment Minister Leona Aglukkaq rejected the proposed New Prosperity Gold-Copper Mine, stating that the significant environmental impacts of the proposed mine could not be justified.

          “The Panel is convinced that the Tsilhqot’in cultural attachment to Fish Lake (Teztan Biny) and the Nabas areas is so profound that they cannot reasonably be expected to accept the conversion of that area into the proposed New Prosperity mine.”   -Federal Environmental Review Panel

    The Tsilhqot'in people have consistently opposed plans to mine near Teztan Biny or Fish Lake which is part of their traditional territory in central British Columbia.

    February 27, 2014

    Amnesty International is joining the Tsilhqot'in people and their many other allies and supporters in celebrating the Government of Canada's decision to reject a proposed gold-copper mine on their traditional territory.

    This is the second time that the federal government has rejected plans by Taseko Mines to open a mine near Teztan Biny or Fish Lake in central British Columbia.

    The Tsilhqot'in people have consistently opposed plans to mine near Teztan Biny, calling the proposed New Prosperity Gold-Copper Mine the wrong mine at the wrong place.

    In late October, a federally-appointed environmental assessment panel concluded that the proposed mine would have “severe” and “irreversible” impacts on the culture and traditional practices of the Tsilhqot’in people. The panel also found a wide range of serious environmental impacts on the lakes, rivers and wetlands of the area.

    In a decision released on February 26, federal Environment Minister Leona Aglukkaq said that the significant environmental impacts of the proposed mine could not be justified.

    December 20, 2013

    In recommending that the federal government approve the proposed Northern Gateway pipeline, the Joint Review Panel which assessed the project has ignored crucial protections for Indigenous rights set out in both the Canadian Constitution and international human rights law.

    The Northern Gateway Project is intended to transport heavy oil sands crude and industrial chemicals between Alberta and the British Columbia coast.

    The majority of First Nations whose traditional lands would be crossed by the proposed pipeline have opposed the project, as have First Nations who depend on the downstream rivers and coastal waters. 
    In a  report released on December 19, the Joint Review Panel established to carry out an environmental impact assessment recommends that the project be approved subject to 209 conditions, many of which include requirements for further consultation with First Nations.

    November 04, 2013
    by Craig Benjamin, Campaigner for Human Rights of Indigenous Peoples

    Photo:  Tsilhqot'in healer Cecil Grinder

    A proposed gold-copper mine would have “severe” and “irreversible” impacts on the rights of the Tsilhqot’in people of central British Columbia.

    This is the conclusion of an independent federal panel that examined the potential impact of the proposed “New Prosperity” mine. The environmental impact assessment also found a wide range of serious environmental impacts on the lakes, rivers and wetlands.

    Under federal environmental legislation, the actual decision about whether the project should go ahead is in the hands of cabinet. The federal government is under considerable pressure to approve the proposed “New Prosperity” mine because of the promised economic benefits to the region.

    The Tsilhqot’in people, however, have been clear that the mine is unacceptable to them.

    November 01, 2013

    “Everything around us was disappearing... The clean water, our way of life, our traditions, even the wild rice picking and blueberry picking were all disappearing” - Judy DaSilva, Grassy Narrows First Nation on the impact of clearcut logging on their traditional lands

    The province of Ontario is asking for public comments on a plan to resume clearcut logging in the traditional territory of the Grassy Narrows First Nation. The people of Grassy Narrows have already said no to such logging. Amnesty International believes Ontario must listen. We’re encouraging all our members in Ontario to take this opportunity to speak out for the human rights of the people of Grassy Narrows.

    The deadline for submissions has passed. 

    Thank you to the more than 1,200 Ontarians who submitted their comment on the proposal to resume clearcut logging on the traditional territory of the Grassy Narrows First Nation.

    November 01, 2013

     

    David Alward, Premier of New Brunswick
    Centennial Building
    P.O. Box 6000
    Fredericton, NB E3B 5H1

     Dear Premier Alward:

    Our organizations are deeply concerned by the Province of New Brunswick’s response to anti-fracking protests at the Elsipogtog Mi’kmaq Nation. We are appreciative of the efforts of all involved to allow a cooling off period following the violence of October 17. However, it is our view that this clash could have been avoided had the province acted in a manner consistent with its obligations to respect the human rights of Indigenous peoples under Canadian and international law. Furthermore, we are concerned that unless the province adopts an approach consistent with these obligations, further clashes may occur.

    October 21, 2013

    By Craig Benjamin, Campaigner for the Human Rights of Indigenous Peoples

    The United Nation’s top expert on the human rights of Indigenous peoples says Canada is facing a “crisis” which must be addressed.

    James Anaya visited Canada this month as part of a fact-finding mission. At a press conference to conclude his visit, the Special Rapporteur said,

    “The well-being gap between aboriginal and non-aboriginal people in Canada has not narrowed over the last several years, treaty and aboriginals claims remain persistently unresolved, and overall there appear to be high levels of distrust among aboriginal peoples toward government at both the federal and provincial levels.”

    The Special Rapporteur went on to note that while “Canada consistently ranks near the top among countries with respect to human development standards… aboriginal people live in conditions akin to those in countries that rank much lower and in which poverty abounds.”

    Some of the specific examples raised by the Special rapporteur included:

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